Ironic twist wraps up PhD

    Kristine Van Dinther explored the ethics of end of life decision making by examining the experiences of family members who were engaged with the care of a loved one with terminal cancer. She found that both the life-worlds of patients and families are altered by a terminal diagnosis which, as a consequence, changes their embodied moral worlds. The social and perceptual transformations coupled with the power of emotions which occur, alter the very nature of our engagement with ethical problems. This research presented an innovative approach to understanding end of life care by combining both medical and moral anthropology and contributes to new understandings regarding decision making and morality.  Her concluding finding was that moral reasoning, when it comes to death, differs substantially from ordinary engagements with ethical problems. 


    A message from Kristine’s desk.

    Hello everyone.  As anyone who has completed a PhD would know, it never feels as though it will end.  Well, I’m very proud to announce that I have completed my PhD in just over four and a half years.  Due to the specificity of my approach to research, finding examiners took a considerable amount of time. My field, medical anthropology with a moral focus, was unique in approach to end of life decision making contributing new and original ideas to existing knowledge. However, at the same time, it made it more difficult to find the right examiners for my thesis. Most people do not have problems finding examiners, but having difficulty can draw out the time it takes to complete your PhD.  This is something to consider if your work is unique or within a sub-discipline in your field. 

    One of the compliments I received from my supervisor while we were having a drink after graduation was how efficient I was and that despite these delays, I was still able to complete in a respectable amount of time. I guess I was an efficient person, I knew at least that. Completing significant research requires self-belief, organisation and sheer determination.  If there’s a hurdle, get over it.  Road block?  Break it down. Yes, there is stress. Lots of it. But isn’t that the case with anything worth doing?  However, there was something else that was happening right at the time of completion.  

    In October last year, a tumour was discovered by accident in my lung.  In January, I had a follow up scan and was told I would need a lobectomy which involves removing an entire lobe. The surgeon wanted to book me in as soon as possible. I couldn’t quite believe it, and I think understandably, was quite anxious about the procedure. The irony of all my years of writing about and researching medical decision making and then living through such an experience was not lost on me. Indeed, it was quite surreal to undergo surgery, suffering and recovery, all the while thinking about my research and how this experience fit within it!  I even considered carrying out an auto-ethnography and keeping a diary of my experiences during the process but I was in too much pain and my thinking, due to the pain killers, was too foggy.  Further, before surgery, I was more concerned with graduating and how inconvenient this discovery was. Yes, even in hospital I was still thinking about my thesis!  The tumor, as it turned out, was a cancer and I thanked my lucky stars that it was discovered so early. My General Practitioner deals with cancer patients all the time and keeps telling me how fortunate I am.  I believe it.  Four weeks post-surgery, I was just well enough to attend my graduation ceremony (something I was determined to do). 

    As I am learning, recovery from such a procedure takes time and not just the physical element either. However, I really am doing well and actively looking forward to my future career in the field of medical anthropology and am currently in the process of collaborating with a colleague of mine on a research article. Thank you JCU and the Cairns Institute for having me.  It’s been a wild ride. Undertaking a PhD is a challenge one never forgets nor will ever regret.

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